“Leaders are not responsible for the job. Leaders are responsible for the people that are responsible for the job.” – Simon Sinek
I believe Sinek’s premise. When you become a supervisor, you inherit not power and perks rather a deep sense of obligation to those under your wing. This sense of responsibility surprises some new supervisors and causes them to realize they could benefit from some help to grow into this new role.
Leaders must learn the content required for their position and the art of supervision itself as well as upping their own personal game to serve as a leader and role model to others. This can take many forms: becoming more conscious of their language, their attire, their social circles or work ethic. Leaders may wish to broaden their knowledge of the field and cultivate a more external focus. They need to develop new networks or acquire a coach to help them navigate tricky situations and politics – all in the name of improving their skills in order to enhance the work of others.
Just like the advice in airplanes where adults need to put on their oxygen mask first before helping others, so a supervisor must work to first strengthen their skill set before they can help others to flourish. What have you done lately to help yourself grow?
If someone gave you a marble to hold, you could do so with ease. Ditto for a half-dozen but after that, it becomes more challenging. You’re likely to drop one or pay so much attention to holding on to them that you fail to see their beauty. Yet if someone gave you a bag to hold 100 marbles, you could manage to hang on to all of them without a problem.
Think about this analogy in the context of learning a new skill. If someone teaches you one or two or six things, you can get it. But pretty soon, without a context, those ideas start to roll around like loose marbles and you’re bound to forget some of them. Fortunately, with the right framework, you can collect hundreds of ideas and amass a host of skills — and manage to keep them all.
When you are providing content – whether through employee onboarding, teaching a workshop, parenting, or writing a blog – don’t focus solely on individual messages. Provide that “bag” to connect your information to the whole as a way to keep your listener from losing their marbles.
I had an interesting conversation with someone who has just made a career change to become a Realtor. She described the extensive training that went into the process – courses online and in multiple cities, several tests and licensing in different jurisdictions.
I asked what surprised her and she had two answers: 1) that there was a lot of math, “as in a lot” and 2) when she finished, she still had not been taught how to do a listing. She could calculate the area of a plot of land and been tested on zoning regulations but was never shown how to put a property up for sale.
I think that our onboarding processes are sometimes like this – we get so caught up in explaining the big picture that we forget that new employees need to know the most mundane set of details as well: where do I get a key and ID, who do I call if I can’t make it into work, how do I buy things, what is the password for the computer, where do people eat lunch, etc. It is by understanding these small tasks that a new employee feels like they belong and are less of a rookie.
Even before they arrive, anticipate the questions a new staff member will have for Day 1: when should I arrive, where should I park, where should I go when I arrive, what is the typical dress code, what type of HR paperwork do I need to bring, do people eat lunch out or bring theirs in, etc.
If you find yourself in a new situation, the details are what help you build a solid foundation from which you can do the higher-level thinking. Don’t overlook the small stuff when welcoming someone new to your organization.
In his book Originals, Adam Grant writes about “ambivalent relationships” – those where you are unsure of whether or not the person is supportive of you. “It takes more emotional energy and coping resources to deal with individuals that are inconsistent,” he writes. Grant says that you must remain constantly on guard in uncertain relationships – thus they are even more unhealthy for you than with negative relationships since there you know where you stand.
Nowhere is the ambivalence more stressful than when it occurs with your boss. If you are unsure that your supervisor has your back and will support you, much energy is wasted as you become tentative in your responses and stifle any creativity for fear of failure. Bosses who are like wheat – leaning one way then suddenly leaning another – cause much duplication and stress for those who must deal with the consequences.
Grant writes; “It is our instinct to sever bad relationships and salvage the ambivalent ones, but evidence suggests we ought to do the opposite.” The constant toll of being in limbo is more emotionally draining than writing off a known negative.
If you have a supervisor or colleague that is wavering in their support, maybe it’s time for you to pursue other options. Don’t be unequivocal about someone who is ambivalent toward you.
I have always been a big believer in the value of meeting with your employees one-to-one. My mantra was that updates could happen informally in the hallway, but for real professional development to take place there needed to be scheduled meetings that went beyond the nuts and bolts of daily operations.
In my supervisor workshops, I frequently encounter supervisors who wonder what there is to talk about if it isn’t about logistical items or tasks. Here is a list of topics that I have shared:
- New skills to develop
- Interests that aren’t being utilized
- Biggest challenges
- Long-term thoughts on what could be done
- Evaluation/debriefing of recent activities
- What changes could be made to the supervisor/supervisee relationship
- What could be stopped/eliminated
- Lessons from something read/listened to/learned lately
- What is good that can be made great
- Feedback/progress since the last evaluation
- What’s the next milestone
- WHY are you doing XYZ
- Why are you NOT doing XYZ
- What do they wish they had the time/resources to do but aren’t
- How is their staff doing/how to help your employee supervise
- The organization’s strategic plan – what is it, how can they tie in
- What is a priority
- How to effectively deploy resources, what resources matter most to them
- Ask: “How can I help you be successful?
I believe there is no better use of your time than to have these types of discussions with those whom you supervise. Make it a priority to meet one-to-one with your staff on a regular (dare I say weekly) basis. Start today by scheduling time on your calendar for this critical capacity-building function.
On this Valentine’s Day, you may be wondering how to express your love to those you care about. Author Gary Chapman can help! He has defined five Love Languages that identify preferred ways of receiving affection. Knowing your preferred “Love Language” and that of others may help you to communicate in a way that is most meaningful.
A simple quiz can help you understand which of the five Love Languages resonate most deeply with you:
- Acts of Service: Having someone offer to help and ease your burden
- Quality Time: Someone being present and giving you their full attention
- Receiving Gifts: Receiving a thoughtful token gift that is tailored to your interests
- Physical Touch: Hugs or literal pats on the back
- Words of Affirmation: Hearing someone share why they love you or why you are important
Chapman has also adapted his languages as a guide for how people can express appreciation to others. In his 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, he offers suggestions on how to apply the concepts to show gratitude to coworkers in a way that resonates with them. The quiz could be a fun icebreaker to discuss at your next staff meeting.
Whether or not you know someone’s preferred Language, it’s important to remember that different people favor different ways of receiving affection or appreciation from you. Become conscious of how you deliver your sentiments and mix up the ways you show others you care.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, 2009
5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White, 2011
A recent article predicts that widespread use of autonomous cars is still at least a decade off – in large part because of weather. The cameras and sensors can’t see through snow or rain and they do not know where to go if the lane lines are covered — thus human intervention is required.
It sounded a lot like supervision to me: employees can “drive” on their own if conditions are ideal, the lanes are well marked and the curbs are in place, but when facing unlined roads, challenging weather or unforeseen obstacles, suddenly “autonomous” isn’t appropriate anymore.
As a supervisor, you should work like the researchers and identify situations whereby your “vehicle” can operate with reliability on their own and dedicate extra attention to the conditions that are likely to cause uncertainty and require your intervention. Autonomous may be the goal for cars and for employees, but so far, neither can operate effectively on their own.
Source: Why autonomous cars aren’t coming anytime soon by Tom Krisher for the Associated Press in the Telegraph Herald, February 10, 2019, p. 7D.